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Documentary “Out in the Silence” Screened on Campus Oct. 7

Published: October 1, 2010

The Department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at CSULB will sponsor a screening of the Emmy-nominated documentary “Out in the Silence” on Thursday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. in the Beach Auditorium. Admission is free. A discussion with the film’s producers will follow.

The screening comes in conjunction with the Lesbian Bisexual Gay Transgender Student Resource Center’s sponsorship of a National Coming Out Week beginning Oct. 11, recognized as National Coming Out Day, an internationally observed civil awareness day for coming out and discussion about LGBT issues.

“We started Coming Out Week four years ago,” said Student Resource Center Coordinator Matt Cabrera. “The purpose of the event is to help educate and bring awareness to Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender issues. The week will feature such activities as a resource fair with representatives from on- and off-campus groups that have an LGBT focus as well as a transgender awareness workshop.”

“Outreach like this has always been a part of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies’ mission,” said Department Chair Wendy Griffin. “We have been active in social justice issues raised by this film since the department’s founding.”

In the late 1960s, the first classes with Women’s Studies content were taught at CSULB. The popularity of those initial courses led to the first “official” Women’s Studies class in 1970. The Program in Women’s Studies was established about the same time.

“We are still fairly new,” said Griffin. “We earned departmental status in 1995 and graduated our first official majors in 1997. Just last year we expanded our scope and now offer degrees in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.”

“Out in the Silence” captures the chain of events that unfold with the announcement of film producer/director Joe Wilson’s wedding to director Dean Hamer who previously visited campus to promote his book The Biology of Desire. Drawn back by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school, Wilson’s journey illustrates the challenges of being an outsider and the transformation that is possible when those who have long been constrained by a traditional code of silence summon the courage to break it.

“The aim of ‘Out in the Silence’ is to expand public awareness about the difficulties that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face in rural and small town America and to promote dialogue and action that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground,” said Griffin.

The film is presented by Penn State Public Broadcasting with support from the Sundance Institute and the Pennsylvania Public Television Network. “Silence” has won the Audience Award from the Hardacre Film Festival, the Alternative Spirit Award from the Rhode Island International Film Festival and was an official selection of the Human Rights Watch.

Griffin has seen the film twice during its production. “Every time I see it, it gets richer,” she said. “I think one reason it keeps getting better is the series of screenings it has received in such diverse venues as New York’s Lincoln Center, the Sundance Film Festival, and all over rural Pennsylvania,” she said. “As the filmmakers show the documentary, they incorporate audience feedback. It is a big part of the film’s ongoing growth process.”

Griffin stresses the documentary’s timeliness. “The Department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies really wants to show this film,” she said. “It is so relevant to what this department is doing on campus and to issues that affect the whole nation as well as the Proposition 8 debate in California.”

The goal of the film, she believes, is to expand minds. “Screenings in rural areas have drawn mixed responses, some of them ugly, but I feel many audiences walk away with a better understanding of the issues involved,” she said “It is part of our department’s mission to help cultivate a better understanding of these issues and to sponsor more dialogue. Rather than have people yelling at each other, it opens people up to dialogue.”

Griffin encourages the university community to attend. “I think everyone should go and go early,” she said. “I expect attendance to be standing room only. It is that relevant. I don’t mean to discourage people but if they don’t arrive early, they may not get in.”

The LGBT Student Resource Center is a student-run facility that promotes full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex and queer-identified individuals and their allies at CSULB. “We have a LGBT community on campus,” said Cabrera. “On top of that, we are a diverse campus in ethnicity and gender orientation. The purpose of this event is to educate. The more we know, the better we are able to enjoy our diverse campus.”

For more information about the film, access its website or e-mail Griffin.

–Richard Manly